Ocular hypertension is when the pressure, also known as intraocular pressure (IOP), is higher than it normally should be. A pressure reading of 21mmHg or higher determines if you have this eye problem. While this condition is different from glaucoma, where pressure damages the optic nerve, those with high IOP are at a higher risk for developing glaucoma. It is estimated that between 4.5 to 9.4 percent of Americans over the age of 40 have this condition, which if left untreated, can lead to vision loss.
Here is why you should be aware of what ocular hypertension is and why it is so important to be checked for it during your regular eye exams.
Causes of High Eye Pressure
Typically, people who have high IOP do not have any signs or symptoms of it like pain or redness. It can only be detected during a comprehensive eye exam. Causes of ocular hypertension include:
- Excessive aqueous production, which is the clear fluid that is produced inside the eye
- Inadequate drainage of the aqueous
- Previous injury to the eye that affects the proper balance and production of the aqueous and its drainage
- Certain medications, including steroids found in medicines to treat asthma and eye drops used after eye surgeries like LASIK
- Certain eye conditions, including corneal arcus, pseudoexfoliation syndrome, or pigment dispersion syndrome
Age, race, and family history can also increase your risk of developing this eye condition. Patients with a family history of glaucoma or ocular hypertension are most at risk, along with African-Americans over the age of 40. Having a very thin central corneal thickness can also increase your risk.
How is This Condition Treated?
If you eye doctor finds that you have higher than normal IOP, you may be prescribed eye drops that will reduce your eye pressure. However, often, because some patients experience side effects from the eye drops, the doctor may choose to monitor your IOP to watch for signs you are developing glaucoma. When eye drops are ineffective at treating the pressure or glaucoma is developing, your eye doctor may recommend surgery or other glaucoma treatments that will treat your high eye pressure.
Regular comprehensive eye exams are key to finding hidden eye health problems. If you have not had an eye exam in the past year, now is a good time to get back on track. Call Valley Eyecare at (602) 955-2700 to schedule your exam today.